The people's voice of reason

Southern Gardening - Potpourri for May

May reminds me of a time when children danced around a Maypole with an assortment of ribbons hanging down from the top. The end result would be the pole covered in a woven design of brightly colored ribbons. Truly a magical sight to behold.

I came across an article last year, which promotes using newspapers in the garden. I have always heard of using newspaper in the bottom of a birdcage, but the garden? The following are tips I remembered from the article.

First use was to layer newspapers on top of bare soil about 3 -4 layers thick, then add the dirt. The benefit is enormous as you would not need to sterilize the soil with herbicides. The newspaper is biodegradable and will smother out any weeds. It is cheaper than landscape cloth used for the exact same purpose. I did try this last spring when starting a new area in the bed and this technique worked perfectly. I wish now that I had saved more newspapers.

Second, newspapers can be formed as seedling holders for starting seeds. Lay about 4 layers of paper down flat, then cut into 8-inch strips. Next roll these into a cone, and cut off the bottom point. Place several of these into a terracotta pot, Fill each with soil and water until the paper is very wet. Now sow the seed into the soil. Since terracotta and also plastic pots dry out very quickly, this newspaper-lined pot will hold the moisture and ensure better germination.

Third, working off this same concept of conserving water, for container gardening with terracotta or plastic pots, line the pots with layers of newspaper, and the pots will not dry out as often.

Fourth use of newspapers involves storing bulbs in the winter. Many bulbs do not like a hard freeze so newspapers are a good cheap alternative to peat moss. And newspapers are a good wrap for fresh vegetables like tomatoes, squash, and eggplant. Vegetables do not like their skins to touch, and when wrapped in newspaper will keep longer in dry storage.

Fifth and the last tip is to use newspapers to clean garden tools. Wipe the dirt from the ends of the tools, then plunge them into a bucket of sand and a cup of oil. No more rusty tools.

When working with perennials, do not be afraid to divide them. Suddenly the garden seems overrun and these flowers are trying to take control. We cannot let this happen and must assert authority over this problem. Every few years, the perennial clumps get larger while the bloom heads get smaller. This is a sure sign they need to be dug up and divided. Look up the plant on Google to verify that it can be divided as most can. Spring and fall are the correct times of the year to perform this task. Just dig the plant, roots and all, and begin to separate into smaller clumps. Place one clump back into the hole, and replant the others elsewhere or be a good neighbor and share.

PLANT OF THE MONTH: Cyrtomium – Shield Fern Family

We have all heard of the holly fern or the Christmas fern, but did you know that it is a garden favorite in our hot Southern climate. This plant works well in the landscape or in the flowerbeds. The stiff arching fronds are deep dark shiny green that almost looks like they have been waxed. They are used as foundation plantings, as border plants in the flowerbeds and as ground covers.

For foundation plantings, they do well in mass plantings or mixed with other flowering shrubs such as azaleas or Indian Hawthorn. When looking to use them in the garden site, clumps do well beside hosta or other flowers, and gives the beds an added texture. They do like sun or shade and thrive in moist but well drained soil. I have seen these used in steep areas as erosion control.


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